Did Huxley intend for agnosticism to be a position of uncertainty?


Agnostic, Independent (politically)
Staff member
Oct 1, 2020
In my view, Huxley did not intend for agnosticism to be a position of uncertainty. Instead, agnosticism was a principle that involved being scientifically-minded. It resulted in a uncertainty for him, but he did not consider his conclusion to be representative nor necessary of all agnostics. Here are some relevant statements that show just this:

The extent of the region of the uncertain, the number of the problems the investigation of which ends in a verdict of not proven, will vary according to the knowledge and the intellectual habits of the individual Agnostic. I do not very much care to speak of anything as "unknowable."2 What I am sure about is that there are many topics about which I know nothing; and which, so far as I can see, are out of reach of my faculties. But whether these things are knowable by any one else is exactly one of those matters which is beyond my knowledge, though I may have a tolerably strong opinion as to the probabilities of the case.
Source: Agnosticism and Christianity [1899] Collected Essays V

The results of the working out of the agnostic principle will vary according to individual knowledge and capacity, and according to the general condition of science. That which is unproven today may be proven by the help of new discoveries to-morrow. The only negative fixed points will be those negations which flow from the demonstrable limitation of our faculties.
Source: Agnosticism (1889)

Another important thing to keep in mind is that agnosticism is not anti-knowledge (or pro uncertainty) like some schools of skepticism are, but rather it is anti-dogma. Dogma has to do with unwarranted certainty. Here are some relevant statements from Huxley regarding agnosticism as a position against dogmatism:
That which Agnostics deny and repudiate, as immoral, is the contrary doctrine, that there are propositions which men ought to believe, without logically satisfactory evidence; and that reprobation ought to attach to the profession of disbelief in such inadequately supported propositions.
Source: Agnosticism and Christianity [1899] Collected Essays V

So I took thought, and invented what I conceived to be the appropriate title of "agnostic." It came into my head as suggestively antithetic to the "gnostic" of Church history, who professed to know so much about the very things of which I was ignorant;
Source: Agnosticism (1889)